What’s At Stake on Election Day: A Millennial Voter’s PerspectiveOctober 20, 2016
This is my first presidential election. It’s the first time I can perform my civic duty and cast my ballot for a better future. While I’m excited to vote, some of my peers are disillusioned with a race that has been full of back-and-forth mudslinging, ceaseless campaign ads, and Twitter rants. But all of that is nothing compared with what’s at stake in the 2016 election.
The United States consistently struggles with historically low voter turnout. We need more participation from the rising American electorate, a title coined by the Voter Participation Center. This group is made up of unmarried women, people of color, and millennials — all of whom are underrepresented at the polls. Ever since the voting age changed to 18 in 1972, young women have been more likely to vote than men, according to research by CIRCLE. However, voter turnout has been decreasing. In 2012, voter turnout for people ages 18−29 was 45 percent, down from 51 percent in 2008. This decrease means we lost thousands of crucial votes.
At AAUW, we believe that when women vote, we change the conversation. Candidates understand that they need women’s votes to win, which affords us the opportunity to drive the discussion in this election. However, it can only be driven by women who show up to vote. That’s why the AAUW Action Fund created the It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign. Our goal is to encourage young women to vote by showing them the connection between voting and the policies affecting women, such as equal pay, sexual assault, student debt, and more.
In 2016 alone, we’ve heard too many alarming stories of campus sexual assault. The Obama administration has made massive efforts in sexual assault prevention and response, including the increased enforcement of Title IX and the creation of NotAlone.gov, which provides resources on how to prevent and respond to sexual assault in schools and on college campuses. However, more work needs to be done. We must change our culture and stop violence against young women. Do you want to see an end to campus sexual assault?
Another critical issue for millennial voters? College affordability. Due to the rising costs of college, young people and their families are saddled with insurmountable student debt. While the political parties have ideas on how to solve this problem, it’s up to us to urge action. Do you want college to be more affordable and end the student loan crisis?
Young voters also face entering a workforce full of pay gaps and gender discrimination. At the rate we’re going, your great-great-great granddaughter will have to tell you what it’s like to have equal pay. Elected officials could make progress on equal pay by passing laws like the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Pay Equity for All Act. Additionally, guaranteeing paid leave and increasing the minimum wage would have a positive effect on the economic security of young voters like me. Do you want economic and workplace policies that benefit all workers? Want to see the gender pay gap close in your lifetime? Want to be able to buy a home and pay off your college loans?
Your vote doesn’t just decide who sits in the Oval Office or in your state legislature. It decides our future. It decides how we end campus sexual assault, solve the student debt crisis, and close the pay gap. And don’t forget, we still have a Supreme Court vacancy that could also determine the fate of these crucial issues. Every vote counts, because voting affects every one of our futures. Hold your candidates accountable, and show them that your voice is the future. Your vote is your voice. Make sure that it’s heard on November 8.
This blog post was adapted by Aditi Dinakar, AAUW public policy intern, from an original Huffington Post blog written by Lisa Maatz, AAUW vice president of government relations and advocacy, entitled “Millennial Women Will be the Difference in This Election.
Read more about the importance of women in politics, voting, and creating change.
Learn talking points for crucial policy issues and questions to ask candidates about college affordability, equal pay, and more.
Election activities carried out in AAUW’s name must be conducted within the guidelines set out in AAUW policies.